Swimmer eager to compete in her third Paralympics

August 14, 2021 - 08:39

At the Đà Nẵng's National Sport Training Centre, swimmer Trịnh Thị Bích Như is practising hard for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.


Trịnh Thị Bích Như seen at the Đà Nẵng National Sport Training Centre. — Photo courtesy of Như

Thanh Nga

At the Đà Nẵng National Sport Training Centre, swimmer Trịnh Thị Bích Như is practising hard for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics.

“I am eagerly waiting for the competition in the Tokyo Paralympics. I hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be well controlled on those days,” Như told Việt Nam News.

“I will compete in four categories including the women’s SB5 50m free style, 50m butterfly, 100m breaststroke and 200m medley. This is my third time competing in the Paralympics. I will do my best to get the best results.”

Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Như has not taken part in tournaments recently, but still practises to maintain her health as well as to be ready when the Games begin.

Journey to overcome difficulties

Overcoming many storms, Như has earned herself the happy life she has always dreamed of.

Though born healthy, at the age of three she fell while playing with friends and had a high fever, while her legs were suddenly inert and gradually atrophied until they were paralysed.

Since then, Như has required the help of her parents. Growing up, she asked her parents to take her to go to school but they refused because they were busy farming.

Later, Như learnt to swim to convince her father to let her go to school by boat. Witnessing the energy of his daughter, her father Trịnh Văn Bảy agreed to send her to school, so that she could learn to read.

School was difficult for Như as she had to face the doubtful eyes of her peers. The disabled girl began to form a complex but this did not stop her spirit. However, when she finished grade 5 she had to quit because the school was too far from her home.

"I was angry at my parents when I was forced to drop out of school, but I thought again and now I love them more," said Như.

After leaving school, the Kiên Giang Province-born girl found a part-time job to help her parents and earned VNĐ150,000 each month.

This “boring" life looked like it was going to be Như’s path for the rest of her days, but she decided to go to HCM City to make a career. The move was not only to help her parents, but also the only way to help her have the life she dreamed of. Her strong will once again convinced her family after two years of persuasion.

In 2008, Như was able to go to HCM City and learnt sewing at a centre for the disabled.

“The day I left, my parents cried so much. I love my parents very much but I was determined to go and couldn’t give up," said Như.

As Như did not want to be a burden to her family, besides studying, she also did extra work. Sometimes she had to stay up until 3am just to earn a little extra money.

Trịnh Thị Bích Như  (centre) and her teammates practise for the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics. — Photo courtesy of Như

From tailor to swimming champion

In the early years in HCM City, homesickness sometimes defeated her.

“Sometimes I worked so hard but didn’t earn much money. I missed home and my parents. I cried alone and just wanted to return my hometown,” Như said.

The difficulties of life got her down until an opportunity to swim came to her.

 “One day, when I was so bored, my friend invited me to go swimming to relax. At first, I was very excited, but when I got there, I was scared. I stayed in the dressing room because I was shy, afraid that people would see my legs because I usually wore trousers,” said Như.

On her first time touching the water, Như immediately made a strong impression on swimming coach Phạm Đình Minh. Realising her ability, Minh began training her.

Finally, Như's talent caught the eye of Đổng Quốc Cường, coach of the national disabled swimming team. At that moment, her life turned a new page.

Every day, Như spent hours rolling her wheelchair to catch the bus to practise at Tân Bình gymnasium. The privation and constant pain did not discourage her because she knew that swimming was the only chance for her to have a "real" life.

Hard training quickly brought Như sweet fruit with a gold and silver medal at the National Sports Championships for the Disabled held in Đà Nẵng in 2010.

This achievement helped Như participate in the 2011 ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia in which she shone with a gold medal in the women’s 50m freestyle.

So far, Như has won a silver medal in the world championship in 2013, and two silver medals in the world event in 2015. In the Asian championship, she brought home three silvers in 2014 and three silvers in 2018. In the ASEAN Para Games and domestic events, she holds many gold medals and records.

Trịnh Thị Bích Như poses with her gold medal at the ASEAN Para Games in 2017. — Photo thethao.sggp.org.vn

Happy life

With the original purpose of just wanting to give her parents a less miserable life, what Như has achieved today is true a miracle that she herself never dared to dream of. Swimming not only helps her to better support her parents but also brought her the man of her life, Đỗ Viết Thạch.

Meeting in the swimming team for the disabled, Như’s sweet smile quickly made Thạch fall in love. After a period of practising together, Thạch’s enthusiasm and sincere heart made Như stop hating him.

However, when the relationship between Như and Thạch was just beginning, they faced a huge challenge from their families because they thought that as Như and Thạch were both disabled, they would not be able to take care of each other.

After two long years and much effort, the couple have proven to both families that they can take care of each other like any other normal couple.

In addition to training, Như worked as a tailor and Thạch worked as a sculptor at home. Their efforts were something their parents could not ignore, and they held a simple wedding in 2016 with the presence and blessings of their families, friends and teammates.

Trịnh Thị Bích Như 's wedding. — Photo courtesy of Như

So far, Như has not had children, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I got married, but now I don't dare to have children. Because of the virus, my husband is unemployed, so family life is also difficult,” said Như.

Currently, Như is training in Đà Nẵng, and her husband is in HCM City, which is heavily affected by COVID-19. Her husband’s neighbourhood is now isolated because of the pandemic, but Như says she will turn her concern and love for her husband into action by getting good results at the Tokyo Paralympics.

The 35-year-old swimmer will leave for Japan on August 19 to conquer her third Paralympics. — VNS